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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thurman Couch, February 12, 2001. Interview K-0537. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Teachers influence students' lives

Couch fondly remembers the student-teacher relationships at Lincoln High School. At Lincoln, he recalls, teachers dedicated themselves to shaping students into responsible citizens, involving themselves in their students' lives and motivating them academically and socially. Couch's recollections may be tinted with nostalgia, but they are consistent with many others' memories of Lincoln High School as a place where iconic teachers and administrators were as strict as they were nurturing.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thurman Couch, February 12, 2001. Interview K-0537. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

RG: Tell me more about the teachers in classes at Lincoln High School. TC: Man, there was nothing like it. I’m talking about somebody who’s gonna stop you. See it wasn’t always about one plus two or three plus four, it was so much deeper than that. I mean, you know, the teacher had to be a psychologist, she had to take time to give us a lecture on what it’s going to be like in order for us to be able to sit and listen, you understand? Today she’s gotta talk about one of the individuals who hasn’t taken a bath, or she’s gotta talk about one guy who hasn’t learned a thing or who hasn’t been in school, does anybody know where he is. You know. And he’s gotta talk to us about the quality of education that we are getting so that we can be able to compete in the world. If you think you’re going to be able to skate right here in this room, when you get out there I’m telling you right now, you ain’t going to be able to make it. Now sit down. You got a problem at home, let’s talk about it. You don’t have any lunch money today, here, here’s 35 cents. You understand. So you was cursing on the playground, I’m not going to kick you out of school today because you was cursing on the playground, come over here and let me talk to you. You know you can’t do that. I’m going to call your mother and we need to have a talk about that. Or, they’re going to tell you, well Thurman, you need to talk to your friend Willie over here, because Willie is out of control, and you guys see what you can do with him. Or it might be a problem in the 9th grade where we got some guy who we know is bad and he’s acting up, Coach might tell us, you got a problem over there with Johnny, you need to go talk to Johnny. We gonna go tell Johnny, Johnny, you can’t do that no more, you understand? Don’t wrestle the girls down there on the playground no more, if you do that again you’re going to get a butt-whipping. So, so you see it all coincided, we’re not cutting up, we’re not showing no signs of disrespect or, when you say something to me, or you’re not looking out the corner of your eye, or you make me feel like I can’t come to you. I felt like I could go to any teacher that was there. And they had the time. But forget about that, it’s what you felt when you sat down in their classroom. I mean, Ross ?, the best math, the best algebra, the best geometry teacher in the whole wide world. Made us all A students, so we could switch. Made geometry and algebra fun. Raise your hand high! You’re high and wrong. That’s all right, let’s go to the next one. You understand? RG: (Laughs) You’re high and wrong. TC: You’re high and wrong. That’s exactly right. RG: That’s great. TC: And if you did something, and you were a good person, and you know you’re going to make mistakes as you grow up. Mr. McDougle wouldn’t send you home, he’d let you go downstairs and work with the janitor and haul out some of the ashes out of the boilermaker. Ain’t going to send you home. What am I going to go home for, to get a whipping from my parents who ain’t going to be able to understand why? He’s going to give you a second chance. There are kids who come to school, Harvey, he’s out of school, he can’t get back in. RG: What were the hallways like between classes? Were they noisy? TC: Well it was, it was a small school, you know. Peerman, when the bell rang, you knew to move quickly to your class. We were like regimented soldiers. We were good soldiers in our school. We had pride in our school. There was nothing more important than getting to class on time. That was never a problem. There was no problem in the hallways. Somebody might be coming down the hallway, hollering out or screaming or something, who didn’t know how to act, or walking past the outside sidewalk, but somebody, one of the teachers would go to the door and be there to tell them, Johnny, shut up. So you know, we didn’t have that. We had pride, man, we loved our school. We loved our school like we loved our home. Just don’t forget that. We weren’t there because we, nobody forced us to go there. I never missed a day. I can remember 9th grade, perfect attendance, 10th grade, perfect attendance. I still got them perfect attendance things there. Wanted to go to school every day. I, I loved school. I wanted to go to school every day. R.D. Smith, get you a job, you’re a good student, a good athlete, you can drive a school bus. Make yourself some money, help your family out. What’s better than that? Lincoln, man. And Chapel Hill High School? I don’t want to go there. But we can if you want to.